“Always am.” I tied the bandana around my face. Dressed all in black—hoodie, dark jeans, black trainers with extra grip for climbing—I looked like a pound-shop ninja, but with my hat pulled low, only my eyes exposed to the outside world, I didn’t give a fuck who saw me. I had a job to do: get in, get out…and don’t get caught.
I gripped the door handle of Megan’s battered Astra.
She dug her thin fingers into my arm. “Be careful.”
I shrugged her off, rolling my eyes. Megan was a veteran, but a worrier. Always fretting till we all made it back. Hovering over anyone who got banged up until they’d made a full recovery. In many ways, she was more of a mother to me than my own had ever been, but I didn’t need mothering right now. I needed to get shit done.
Steeling myself, I got out of the car, easing the door shut with a barely audible click. Then I crouched and crept through the woodland that surrounded the target farm. The main driveway was lit up with security lights, watched by a dozen CCTV cameras I could see—and more I couldn’t—but weeks of scouting had revealed a weak spot away from the stables. If I could get past the kennels without a commotion, I was home free.
An eight-foot wall ringed the palatial country estate. Some of it had spikes to dissuade intruders. They didn’t dissuade me. I dug my feet into the brickwork and scaled the wall, pausing at the spikes to scan the grounds. The coast was as clear as it was ever going to be. I checked my pockets for tools and threw myself over the top.
My feet hit gravel. The crunch seemed deafening, but there was no time to stop and take stock of my surroundings. I found grass as fast as possible and tiptoed to the outbuilding that would be my cover until the mad dash past the kennels. Shadows consumed me, and I welcomed them, absorbed them, adding them to my own. Sabbing was tough, but nights like these brought me to life, made my heart pump, and the blood in my veins sing.
All I had to do was see it through.
I rounded the outbuilding. The kennels were two feet away, but we’d timed it so my scent was blowing in the opposite direction. Some of the sixty hounds were bound to hear me, but Meg and Fletch had set up a smokescreen beyond the walls. A revving motorbike that would cover me if luck was on our side.
It wasn’t something that happened often, but we didn’t stop hoping. I fished my phone from my pocket and sent a blank message to Meg. A few seconds later, the bike roared. On cue, the hounds howled.
Winner. I shot across the yard to the driveway, ducking behind the lorries and horseboxes lined up ready for the morning. Working quickly, I swapped my phone for my knife and hacked at tyres, opting to slash two on each vehicle. It was riskier, and took longer, but if no fucker left this driveway tomorrow morning, I’d die a happy man.
Jab, twist, pull, I worked through the vehicles, methodically disabling each one while the hounds continued to howl. The front door to the main house opened. I ducked behind a van as a flashlight swept the yard. For a long moment, I dared to imagine I wouldn’t be seen.
Then the light stopped at my feet and the game was on.
A shout pierced the air. I recognised the voice—Gordon Llewellyn-Davis, or Goon, as the sabs round here called him—but I didn’t stop to look. Just took off running and prayed his shotgun was locked away.
My feet pounded gravel, and then wet grass. The wall was in sight, but far enough in the distance that the fear I was halfway addicted to beat a fierce tattoo in my chest.
More shouts chased me down. Somewhere, a quad bike roared to life.
“I’ll shoot your bollocks off, you little cunt!”
Nice. For a community who prided themselves on being above the rest of the world, they sure did pick their words.
A shotgun blast rang out behind me. My heart stuttered, but the wall was close. Four more strides and I leapt at it, pulling myself up like a cat as my shoes found purchase on the uneven bricks.
Climbing was my jam, and I sprang easily to the top. The spikes seemed huge. I closed my eyes as I hurled myself past them. Another shot. Goon shouted, but his voice faded as I hit the ground and rolled, scrambling to find my feet. The creak of the metal gates opening was louder, the quad bikes too, but they had no hope of chasing me in the dark.
I sprinted away, disappearing into the woods like the wild creatures I’d pledged my life to protect. Adrenaline sluiced through me, the bitter wind cutting though my clothes. I was wet, cold, and shaking enough to make me feel sick, but beneath it all was victory.
There would be no hunt tomorrow.